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Media Center and Vista need a divorce

Posted by onlydarksets on January 5, 2009

Long Zheng posted a link on his blog to a Microsoft-produced retrospective of the last decade of Media Center versions (also posted by Brent at GeekTonic, which reminded me to write on this).  It’s time for Microsoft to uncouple Media Center from the OS.

I jumped ship from Vista Media Center almost 6 months ago, and one of the biggest reasons was a  persistent bug with an identified cause resulted in many of my recordings having an incorrect duration, which made it difficult (although not impossible) to use the files.  To date, the problem has still not been resolved, because Media Center updates are tied to the OS release schedule, which does not permit quick release patches for non-critical bugs.  If they get it wrong, it’s a whole new cycle before they can send out another patch.

Microsoft already realizes that baking everything into the OS is not always the best idea, because it creates a bloated OS and reduces flexibility and limits the options for the individual apps (see here, here, and here).  Given the much richer experience I have had with SageTV since August, I think that applies to Media Center, as well.

Posted in Media Center PCs, Microsoft, Windows 7, Windows Media Center, Windows Vista | Leave a Comment »

Manipulating arguments to a batch file

Posted by onlydarksets on December 10, 2008

I am creating a batch file, and I needed to parse out the arguments (e.g., get the filename, change the extension, etc.).  I always forget these (and where to find them), so I’m copying them here.

%~1 - expands %1 removing any surrounding quotes (")
%~f1 - expands %1 to a fully qualified path name
%~d1 - expands %1 to a drive letter only
%~p1 - expands %1 to a path only
%~n1 - expands %1 to a file name only
%~x1 - expands %1 to a file extension only
%~s1 - expanded path contains short names only
%~a1 - expands %1 to file attributes
%~t1 - expands %1 to date/time of file
%~z1 - expands %1 to size of file

Posted in Windows Vista, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »

Save up to 25% at eBay

Posted by onlydarksets on November 18, 2008

Using Microsoft’s Cashback program, you can save 25% off of any Buy It Now purchase at eBay (up to $250 in cash back).  The downside is that you have to wait 60 days to get your cash, but still – up to $250 off of competitively priced products?  That’s some marketing budget.

So, search for it on, look for the eBay cashback link at the top, click it, and complete the transaction within 1 hour.  Apparently that’s it!

I wish I knew about this 5 days ago

Posted in Microsoft | Leave a Comment »

Mounting multiple ISOs

Posted by onlydarksets on November 17, 2008

When installing Office, etc. from our Microsoft Partner MSDN library, I usually take the lazy route and use 7-zip to unpack the ISOs.  ISODisk lets you mount up to 20 ISOs simultaneously, and it seems like a more efficient path.

Posted in Microsoft, Microsoft Office, MS Sharepoint, MS SQL Server, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »

Vista’s “Shrink Volume” feature

Posted by onlydarksets on November 17, 2008

The wireless stopped working reliably on my laptop, so I needed to reinstall Vista.  Instead of doing it all at once, though, I decided to resize the partition and install Vista to a new partition, which would allow me to access the old install.  This way, I can still access the programs, settings, and data from the old install until I am sure I have everything.

I tried using Vista’s “Shrink Volume” feature, but it only let me free up about 40% of the actual free space on the disk.  Turns out that “Shrink Volume” isn’t really all that intelligent.  It takes the last available sector reported by the disk as the limit of the free space it can create.  So, if you have 70GB out of 120GB free, but there is a certain type of data written to the sector at the 90GB mark, you can only free up 30GB, not the full 70GB (image worth a thousand words).

There is a workaround (see here to disable hibernation), but this is something that Vista should handle invisibly.

Posted in Windows Vista | Leave a Comment »

Windows 7 media formats and transcoding

Posted by onlydarksets on November 15, 2008

Looks like Windows 7 will support DivX and XviD, in addition to H.264 and MP4.  It’s about time.

Posted in Media Center PCs, Windows 7, Windows Media Center | Leave a Comment »

Phone-based two-factor authentication for LogMeIn

Posted by onlydarksets on October 27, 2008

I haven’t setup LogMeIn because I’m skittish about security.  PhoneFactor looks like a promising addition to the chain that could alleviate my concerns.  It provides a second-factor authentication (the first being your username/password) by requiring you to answer your phone before it lets you in.  If you (or, more likely, a would-be hacker) don’t have the phone, you can’t get in.

Posted in Uncategorized, Windows Vista, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »

Using URL of list item in SharePoint workflows

Posted by onlydarksets on October 24, 2008

This should be more simple than it is.  The short of it is that you need to construct your own URL.  And don’t use spaces in your List names.

This is a link to the <a href=”http://intranet/%5B%LISTNAME:Path%%5D/DispForm.aspx?ID=%5B%LISTNAME:ID%%5D”&gt; list item</a>

The item “intranet” is the path to the root of your SharePoint site – “;

[%LISTNAME:Path%] is the lookup item from the workflow email message builder – “Current Item” (first selection) “Path” (second selection)

[%LISTNAME:ID%] is the lookup item from the workflow email message building – “Current Item” (first selection) “ID” (second selection)

Posted in MS Sharepoint | 6 Comments »

Disable loud beep in Remote Desktop

Posted by onlydarksets on October 15, 2008

Ugh – what a stupid “feature”.  I’m testing some AtomicParsley settings in Remote Desktop, and every time it fails, a ridiculously loud Beep comes out of my local computer.  I’ve muted the speakers and disabled every setting in RD, but it still happens.

Enter the interwebs.  Or, more specifically, a site called

Turns out there is a system device called “Beep”.  Seriously.  Stop it and disable its startup, and the Beep goes away.  You can find it under “Non-Plug and Play Drivers” after enabling “Show Hidden Devices” in the Device Manager.  Full instructions at

Posted in Windows Vista | 3 Comments »

The evolution of Windows

Posted by onlydarksets on September 26, 2008

While searching for “Evolution for Windows“, I came across a history of the evolution OF Windows.  Although I didn’t start with Windows until v3.0, it’s all a trip down memory lane!

Posted in Microsoft, Windows Vista, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »